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For so long I thought that success in life would come to me when I was smart enough. I thought it was intelligence that would bring me all that I wanted. What was it that I wanted? Most of all I just wanted to be happy and content. What I have found to be true for me is that intelligence in no way can bring me this happiness I seek. Why? Because what I seek comes from an entirely different place than where my intelligence comes from. It turns out that I put so much effort into developing my mind that I did not realize that what I wanted most was something that would only come from developing my emotions.
I truly believe we have an epidemic in our culture: we are obsessed with logic and reason and as a result, we have forsaken feelings and emotions. Growing up, especially as a male, I was taught to think rather than to feel. I was taught that my brains would allow me to get ahead, and thus it was best if I let go of the “sissy emotional stuff” that would get in the way of progress. Society taught me: don’t be sensitive, be tough and smart. Don’t waste your time feeling; rather, develop your intelligence so you can be successful – that’s the only way you will get ahead. So I did just that. I developed my mind and became a fairly astute thinker. I “succeeded” in school and then in business. But as I turned 50, I came to a point where I became more reflective. I had accomplished much and yet there was something missing in my life. What was it?
What I discovered was missing was that part of me that was able to truly feel. How was I ever going to attain the happiness, contentment, and peace I so desperately wanted if I couldn’t access my feelings? What I wanted was not something my thoughts or my brain could ever give me. What I wanted could only come from my heart. But, I was searching in the wrong place.
One of my favourite quotations comes from Albert Einstein: “you cannot solve a problem with the same consciousness that created the problem.” The answer to my problem was never going to come from my mind because the solution I sought needed to come from a different consciousness – my feelings.
Please don’t get me wrong. I believe that we would not have evolved to the extent we have without developing our intelligence. We have made so many great improvements to our world, which have come from our devotion to the mind. The worlds of science, medicine and technology have brought us so many innovations and improvements that our standard of living is so much better than it was for our ancestors. But our attention and fascination with the intellect has also made it more difficult for the feeling, creative people in our world. So much so that the feelers are often so outnumbered that they feel intimidated or inferior if their minds don’t measure up. This leads me to ask: are our values and priorities really in line with creating a better world? Will we really get the world so many of us are seeking by continuing to focus only on the mind, intellect and logic?
I believe that the pendulum often swings too far in one direction before we are able to realize that change is needed. I think that is the case with regard to feelings and thinking. I truly believe it is time for us to get more in touch with our feelings. In my coaching experience, I have come across so many people who have, for various reasons, got stuck in their mind and not honoured the feeling part of them. As a consequence, they are out of balance and get stuck trying so hard to get to the place of happiness, contentment, and peace. Of course what I have found is they will never get to that place because as Einstein said you will never solve the problem with the same mindset that created the problem. The problem is so many of us have forgotten how to truly feel. There are many reasons I have found as to why people have shut down their feeling side, but the fact remains that many have lost their true connection to how they feel. What we tend to seek most is to feel happier, more content and more at peace and yet we think our mind will make this happen.
As I began to get in touch with my feelings I began to realize how much of life I was missing. In a desire to prevent myself from feeling hurt I had cut off a very real part of me. As a matter of fact, the feeling part of me has turned out to bring me even more pleasure and rewards than the logical side of me. The ability to feel and be aware of the entire gamut of emotions has allowed me to experience life in a much fuller way. I can feel happiness, empathy, sadness, guilt, beauty, frustration, anxiety, anxiousness, bliss, contentment and love, to name just a few, with so much more intensity than I ever could before opening up to my feeling side. I no longer try to hide my true feelings about anything I am experiencing and that has made my life so much more complete. I have also discovered that by opening up myself to my feelings I have been able to connect with my intuition in a way I didn’t believe was possible when my only focus was on thinking my way through life.
And although I am not proposing that we abandon the thinking mind entirely, I do believe it is time for more of us to allow our feelings to be truly felt. To go within and discover why we have shut down that part of who we truly are and allow it to come forth. If it is more love we want in our life, then we are going to have to learn to truly feel love and not just talk about it. What I have found is even by trying to explain feelings or label them, we move away from them and more into our mind. So you don’t have to talk about your feelings, you just have to allow yourself to feel them more of the time. I have had many people ask me “how do I feel?” My answer to them is, you don’t need to know how to feel, it is an inherent part of you. We all have the capacity to feel, it’s just that in many cases we have shut down that part of us. So if you are interested in discovering a lost part of you, simply open up your heart and quiet your mind. There is often a very subtle difference between thinking and feeling and it takes practice to know whether you are coming from your mind or your emotions. The active mind will not feel very comfortable with your new resolve, so be careful that your mind doesn’t try to talk you out of feeling. What I have discovered is the more powerful the mind is the more it does not want to give up its power.
I have come across many people who in a desire to protect their feelings from being hurt at some point, have used their mind to protect themselves from truly feeling. They have empowered the mind to protect their heart. That was the case for me. I developed my astute mind and intellect so I would not feel the pain that was deep within me. As I connected with my feelings I had to let out all those unexpressed emotions that were still part of me. It is my belief that unexpressed emotions can cause dis-ease within us. That, I am convinced, was the case for me. Much of my physical maladies have disappeared since I have let go of all the unexpressed emotions that were stuck within me.
And now that I have processed many of those old emotions, which I was hanging on to, I feel so much better and I no longer hold back on how I am feeling. I have come to live with the fact that my heart leads the way and my mind follows. I try to do as much as I can from my feeling place first. I even try to allow my writing to come from how I feel and not from my rational mind. I can actually tell the difference – when I write from my heart the words simply flow onto the page. When I write from my mind I stop and start and ponder and think. It doesn’t feel nearly as good for me to write from my mind as it does my heart. That is only one example of how much fuller my life is now that I have connected with my feelings. What I have discovered for me is that success in life does not come from being smart enough; it comes from feeling enough.
So now the choice is yours. Do you have enough feeling in your life? Are your decisions and actions influenced by thoughts or feelings? Do you allow yourself to feel true happiness, sadness, joy, grief, pain, love, etc. or do you push all of those down with your mind in order to remain neutral and “in control”?
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